Published in Connections Magazine (November/December 2015)
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faith and family
The Holy Days
by Marcus J. Carlson
The holiday season is always one of joy for me, even in the midst of the busyness of life, family and ministry. My love for all things Christmas makes this season even more meaningful for me. Having younger children (ages 10 & 8) also makes the holiday season particularly joyful and special. The holidays are certainly a time for family. In fact, the gift of the holiday season—both Thanksgiving and Christmas— is that it forces us in our busy culture to stop and to be with, enjoy and celebrate with our families. Holidays also teach us much about discipleship.
There are very few things I can think of that I enjoy as much as time with my family. Whether a small amount of time between events, a board game, a movie or an incredible family vacation, family time is the best time. We have worked hard as a family to be intentional about spending time together. We schedule one-on-one time on our calendars with each of our two children throughout the week. We make sure to schedule a vacation every year and a game and movie night almost every month. I have found that even in the lightest of schedules, if we are not intentional about family time it just does not happen.
The holidays have served as a yearly reminder that not only is family time the best time, we need to cherish it, make it a priority and be intentional about it. Our strength as families (whatever our family makeup may be) in Christ and as a family is directly connected to the quantity and quality of time we spend together. The hard truth is that if we do not make family time a priority, our opportunity to in uence our children decreases and our ability to help them grow in their faith is diminished. Discipleship is impossible without spending time together and best happens in relationship. If we want to make our own discipleship (learning, growing and following) and the discipleship of our children a priority, we must spend time together.
When we look at the word holiday and break it down into its two separate words, we get an important phrase and concept that applies not only to us as individuals, but as families and as a culture. Holy Days. That is what holidays are: holy days. We all recognize that not all holidays are holy days. Certainly Labor Day, Valentines Day, Presidents Day and National Ice Cream Day, among others, are not necessarily holy days—even though they are observed as holidays. We all place different value on the holidays that nd their way into our calendars, our social media pages and our lives. I could do without Valentine’s Day, but would be content for National Ice Cream Day being declared as a federal holiday!
As Christians, we recognize Christmas and Easter as our holiest of days. In fact, based on church attendance alone we know that even those who are not in a regular relationship with church or in relationship with Jesus see these two days as the most holy of days! If we are honest, however, we recognize that every day is a holy day. Many of us begin our worship with the simple phrase recognizing this reality; ‘this is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.’ This concept is not meant to be cliche or reserved only for Sunday. Every day is truly holy.
The painful truth is that we do not often approach each day as holy. Often, we approach each day by our mood, the weather, the season, the items on our calendar or to do list, our work or a myriad of other things. I believe that our days would take a different shape (as would our attitudes about them) if we truly approached each day as a holy day.
If we were to make an intentional effort to see each day as holy, a gift from God, with the goal to listen to, watch for and engage with the work of the Holy Spirit, all our days would be holy and transformative. Our lives, our families, our churches and our culture would be radically different.
Instead of trying to ght cultural battles through media and government, what if we were simply to live each day as holy, looking for opportunities in each day to bring God’s love and grace to everyone we encounter? This concept resembles the discipleship Jesus taught us through His life, His teaching and His relationship with the 12 disciples, rather than the kind of discipleship we often live out in our culture today.
In our home, we have made family dinner a priority. It is not easy in the world today, and there are seasons more than others when we are more successful in this discipline. We know family time matters for many reasons. In fact, there is an in nite amount of good research that tells us that for the past six or more decades, the activity with the single most in uence on the long-term health of our children is family dinner. The Scripture, our hearts—and even secular research—all point to the important truth that time together is powerful and transformative.
As a part of our family dinner routine we share three things with each other, in addition to any other conversation that might happen (the iPhones, books, toys and iPads are not at the table). Those three topics for conversation include our high, our low and our holy.
Our high is the best part of the day and is required sharing. The low is a low point of the day and is something that is shared optionally (my optimistic son most days says, “I have no low today!”). The holy is a time in our day that we saw or thought about God.
Listening to our children share their observations about the holiness of each day over the past ve years has been incredible. It is a powerful reminder of childlike faith. It is a powerful reminder of our blessings and the holiness of each day. It is a practice that has transformed us as parents, and it is building a habit and perspective in our children that will do more for their relationship with God, the church and the world than any Sunday school class, Bible study or other program ever could.
As we approach this holiday season, we are reminded of the meaning and power of holidays. We are reminded of the signi cance of family. We are reminded of the power of time together. We recognize that discipleship happens in relationship, and relationship does not happen by accident.
True, powerful and meaningful relationship happens when we are intentional and make time together a priority.
Each day is holy. Each day represents an opportunity for discipleship—in our own lives, in our families and in all whom we encounter. As Lamentations 3:22-23 reminds us: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
Make each day holy, because God already has.